One That (Maybe) Got Away
Brian Vickers’ blue No. 83 had Kurt Busch’s blue deuce in its sights, slowly reeling in the leader as the two fought toward the scheduled finish Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
(Cue the untimely caution.)
But the 11th yellow flag of the Kobalt Tools 500 waved with four laps remaining, halting Vickers’ pursuit of Busch and setting up a green-white-checkered finish. A thin lead group of cars, all running on aging rubber and low of fuel, had no choice but to pit. Vickers peeled onto pit road in second and peeled off in sixth, and he picked up one position in the final two laps to give Red Bull Racing Team its first top-five finish of the season.
The result was Vickers’ third consecutive top 10. He’s gained 29 positions in points in the past three races and sits 11th entering the bye week.
As Busch celebrated in victory lane, all Vickers could think about was what he lost — a shot at his second Sprint Cup victory and first with Red Bull Racing Team.
“We would’ve finished first or second — or wrecked trying,” Vickers said. “We obviously had the better car there at the end. Kurt and I were running the same line, so it wasn’t going to be easy to pass him. He was driving his butt off as well. I’m really proud of the Red Bull guys. I had a great car all day.”
Before the final stop, Vickers last pitted under caution on lap 262. He came in fourth, left in second and five laps later the No. 83 and a handful of other leaders stayed out when Scott Speed’s No. 82 and the No. 6 connected to bring out the 10th yellow. On the restart, Busch and Vickers pulled away to make it a two-car show, and Vickers at one point cut Busch’s lead to less than a second with 17 laps to go as they used every inch along the outside wall.
“We always seemed to have one of the best cars — if not the best car — at one point throughout a run,” Vickers said. “I was really hoping it would stay green. It was going to be a great race to the finish with Kurt and I.”
As for Speed, who fought an ill-handling car, his day ended with a wrecker towing the No. 82 to the garage. After the contact coming off turn four, Speed’s car darted right and scraped along the frontstretch wall before creeping to a stop. Speed was OK, but the rookie was credited with 35th. The No. 82 ranks 37th in the car owner standings — 30 points from the top 35.